By the end of the first inning, Benet's baseball team left little doubt about its motivation level to remain East Suburban Catholic Conference champion.
A 15-run bottom of the first -- yes, 15 runs -- powered the Redwings to Wednesday's 17-7 five-inning victory over visiting Nazareth to clinch back-to-back ESCC titles for the first time in program history.
Benet (20-9, 12-4) will share the title with Joliet Catholic. Carmel, which still needs to play rescheduled ESCC games, also sits with four losses and remains alive for a share.
"It's huge for the program," said Bradley-bound Redwings shortstop Chris Whelan. "We've been trying to create something special here for Benet baseball and trying to welcome coach (Scott) Lawler to the program. I think these two conference championships have really brought him into the family. It's pretty special."
Benet actually had to rally from a 3-0 deficit after Andrew Barreto's 2-run double helped the Roadrunners (20-13, 6-10) to an early lead. The Redwings' statistics in the bottom of the first became staggering.
The first 12 batters reached base and 11 runs scored before an out was recorded. The lineup's first three hitters batted three times as 21 total batters came to the plate.
There were 10 hits, 4 walks and an error against three Nazareth pitchers to create a 15-3 lead by the time the Roadrunners finally notched the third out. Mike Ryan had two 2-run doubles while Anthony Rendina had 2 hits and Whelan, Joe Boyle, Jon Kruppe and Ryan Raupach drove in 2 runs apiece.
All in one inning.
"That's the most runs I've ever seen scored in one inning," Ryan said. "We were hoping to chip away, and it just turned into 15 runs. Winning conference again is a huge accomplishment for the program and it gives us so much motivation heading into the playoffs."
Nazareth didn't go away. Matthew Flach's solo homer sparked a 3-run second inning, and a third-inning run made it 15-7. Whelan singled home a run in the fourth and ended the game with a fifth-inning RBI double.
Mike Powers pitched 3 innings for the win, backed up by 2 scoreless relief innings from Conor Hayes.
"Our conference is one of the toughest in the state, and anytime you can finish on top, I think it says a lot for your kids," Lawler said. "I'm really happy for the seniors and the rest of the program."
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